Here at Kent Adult Education we were lucky enough to sponsor the Whitstable Literary Festival’s Festival of Writing which took place back in April. Attendees were able to take part in a series of workshops, including a ‘Finding your Voice’ session run by KAE creative writing Tutor Kimberley Burridge. Delegates were also able to hear from a range of international writers, publishers and editors. It was a fantastic celebration of all things creative writing.

This month we were able to get talking to writers and literary fanatics at the main Whitstable Literary Festival from KAE’s Whitstable base The Horsebridge Centre. We spoke to writer and historian Julie Peakman.

As a historian in eighteenth century culture and sexuality, Julie is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Honorary Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has published many titles including the highly-acclaimed Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England and Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century.

She is the biographer of two eighteenth century women, Emma Hamilton, the mistress of the infamous Admiral Lord Nelson in Emma Hamilton (Life & Times) and the story of Peg Plunkett. What’s interesting about Julie is that she describes herself as a historian first and a writer second.

Peg Plunkett – A Georgian ‘Belle De Jour’

In her talk, Julie reveals her colourful story of the Georgian courtesan Peg Plunkett, based on Peg’s re-discovered memoirs. From a violent domestic background, Peg blitzed her way through balls and masquerades creating scandals and gossip wherever she went, leaving dukes, barristers and lieutenants stranded in her wake.

After her talk we sat down to see what she had to say about her craft – the craft of writing history.

How did you get in to writing?

“I did a PHD on the development of eighteenth century sexuality.”

Your depiction in Peg Plunkett shows the 18th century as a sexual and sordid period of time. What interests you about this era of history?

“The Victorian period has been done to death. It’s much more difficult to find out about the 18th century – I naturally gravitate towards difficult topics. There is a lack of resources in this era. I knew I could make a good contribution, particularly relating to women in the 18th century. I’m hooked on the story of prostitution. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by the memoirs of an 18th century Dublin prostitute?!”

What has been your best moment as a writer?

“When my first book was published. I could finally say I was a real writer!”

What has been your worst moment as a writer?

“When one publisher said I probably only had one book in me. Needless to say I don’t work with him anymore!”

What tips do you have for our creative writing learners?

  • “Focus, focus, focus! Decide what you want to do and go for it.”
  • “Don’t be put off by the negativity of others.”
  • “The expertise is in the editing – I’m used to doing ten to twelve edits of a book and it takes forever. Yes, it’s painful, but editing shows the difference between the professionals and amateurs.”
  • “Follow your own interests – it always pays off.”
  • “Don’t ever write to sell, write because you love writing.”

If you’ve been inspired by what Julie Peakman had to say then why not take a look at our creative writing courses? Begin a novel, write for the big screen, be a poet or start a blog. Write your way through the genres of literature with a creative writing course from KAE.

Our creative writing course provision has had the most new courses for the 2016/17 academic year. We run courses across the county, for beginners, improvers and advanced writers so there’s sure to be a course at a time and a place to suit you. We’re also running a number of free or discounted creative writing tasters across the county, so take a look!
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